The next stop was our dorm in quotes because it bore little resemblance to the residence halls I had lived in as a student in Indiana. It was a bare building, probably four stories tall, with cement walls, cement floors, simple metal railings along the staircases, and small rooms with metal bunk beds, even for the married couples. No bedspreads, no rugs and, though there must have been curtains for sheer modesty, I cant remember them. The bathrooms were the worst part. A row of sinks and, parallel with it, a row of stalls with those horrible holes in the floor. No toilet paper, no hot water sometimes no water at all and hardly any light. Then, of course, there was the ever-present stench which penetrated a good way down the corridor as well. In the bedrooms the mattresses were stuffed with cotton wadding. Later in the morning they brought the bed sheets. Two damp, coarse pieces of oatmeal colored cloth. Fortunately it was a hot day and Ankaras climate is extremely dry.
Tapeworm in a bottle
The first item on the training agenda was the medical briefing. We were told not to drink the tap water but only bottled water, which, mercifully, was always available. We were also warned to avoid especially in restaurants leafy green vegetables like lettuce and parsley, which is used liberally as a garnish on many Turkish dishes. When at home, we were advised to soak fruits and vegetables in water to which a few drops of laundry bleach had been added. (Chlorox, of course, has a strong, not very appetizing odor, and the only way to get rid of it was to rinse the already soaked vegetables again in tap water, thereby defeating the entire purpose. Most of us abandoned this practice after a few weeks.) Finally we were warned about eating undercooked fish which was actually flown in daily from Istanbul and served fresh in some restaurants. To drive this point home, the doctor produced a large jar containing a long tapeworm preserved in formaldehyde. He assured us that the worm had once inhabited the body of a former Volunteer.
A first test of the medical briefing
That evening we had our first meal in Turkey. A large group of us trooped over to Kizilay, the Red Crescent and city center of Ankara, so named for the headquarters of the Turkish Red Cross organization that was located there. The building is gone today, replaced by a fancy shopping mall. The restaurant, which is also gone, was called Rüyam, My Dream. It had a large garden with wooden tables under strings of colored Christmas lights. The waiters all wore white shirts and black suits, slightly shabby and ill-fitting suits but suits nonetheless. It was one of Ankaras most popular restaurants and extremely crowded at that hour on a balmy summer evening.
Our Turkish was of course not good enough for reading the menu in detail. But everybody was familiar with kebab and most of us knew by then that köfte meant meatballs. We ordered Adana kebab, a kind of spicy minced meat molded on a skewer and grilled over hot coals. It was also our introduction to çoban salata, or shepherds salad, which consisted of finely chopped cucumbers, tomatoes and onions tossed in olive oil and lemon juice with a liberal admixture of the perilous chopped parsley. I dont know if it was the hot meatballs or the parsley, but several people had their first bout of Turkish tummy that night.